Today in Science History – November 5 – Léon Teisserenc de Bort and the Stratosphere

Léon Teisserenc de Bort
Léon Teisserenc de Bort (1855 – 1913)

November 5th is Léon Teisserenc de Bort’s birthday. He was a French meteorologist best known for the discovery of the layer in the atmosphere known as the stratosphere.

Teisserenc de Bort was a pioneer of unmanned weather balloons carrying instruments to collect and record data such as temperature, pressure and wind speed. Early flights showed as altitude increases, air temperature falls rather quickly. He discovered a boundary layer of the atmosphere approximately 7 miles up where the temperature would stop decreasing and would remain constant as the altitude increased.

He concluded there were two regions of the atmosphere. The first 7 miles he called the troposphere (“sphere of change” in Greek). This is where the weather constantly changes and stirs up the different gases of air. After 7 miles, he reasoned the gases in the air would layer themselves, heaviest to lightest in strata. He named this section the stratosphere.

Notable Science History Events of November 5

2013 – Indian Space Agency launches the Mars Orbiter Mission

Mars Orbiter Mission
Artist’s impression of ISRO’s Mangalyaan orbiter.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched their Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan (Mars Craft).

The probe was meant to test the engineering, planning, and operations of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). If the tests were successful, the probe would attempt studies of the Martian upper atmosphere and the two Martian moons. It successfully reached Mars orbit on September 23, 2014.

1992 – Jan Hendrik Oort died.

Oort was a Danish astronomer and pioneer of radio astronomy who first showed the Milky Way galaxy rotates about the galactic center. He is best known for the Oort Cloud. This ‘cloud’ is a region of space outside our solar system where comets originate.

1975 – Edward Lawrie Tatum died.

Edward Tatum
Edward Tatum (1905 – 1975)
Nobel Foundation

Tatum was an American biochemist who shares half the 1958 Nobel Prize in Medicine with George Wells Beadle for discovering how genes regulate biochemical events within cells. Their research involved mutating bread mold with x-rays and showing how these mutations changed the enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. Tatum also showed the bacteria E. coli shares genetic information through recombination.

1948 – William D. Phillips was born.

William D. Phillips
William D. Phillips
Credit: Markus Pössel

Phillips is an American physicist who shares the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics with Steven Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji for their research into extremely-low temperature physics of atoms using laser light. Lasers and magnetic fields are tuned to remove momentum from atoms until their temperatures are in the micro-Kelvin range.

1944 – Alexis Carrel died.

Alexis Carrel
Alexis Carrel (1873 – 1944)

Carrel was a French biologist and surgeon who was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his vascular suture technique and his work on blood vessel and organ transplants. He also developed with Henry Dakin a method to treat wounds with a solution of chlorine that was a major advance in battlefield medicine before the development of antibiotics.

1938 – Georges Urbain died.

Urbain was a French chemist who discovered the element lutetium. He named the element after the Roman name of his hometown of Paris. He also produced the first pure samples of ytterbium.

1930 – Christiaan Eijkman died.

Christiaan Eijkman
Christiaan Eijkman (1858 – 1930). Nobel Foundation

Eijkman was a Dutch physician who was awarded half the 1929 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of vitamins. He identified the disease beriberi is caused by poor diet and particular foods would prevent the disease.

It was later determined beriberi is caused by a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency.

1879 – James Clerk Maxwell died.

James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879)

Maxwell was a Scottish physicist who outlined the mathematical formulas for the self-propagation of electromagnetic waves that move at the speed of light. This also led to the realization that light was an electromagnetic wave. He also developed a probability distribution to describe the kinetic theory of gases relating the average velocity of individual gas molecules is related to the temperature of the gas.

1855 – Léon Teisserenc de Bort was born.

1854 – Paul Sabatier was born.

Paul Sabatier (1854 - 1941)
Paul Sabatier (1854 – 1941)
Nobel Foundation

Sabatier was a French chemist who advanced the understanding of catalysts. He was awarded half the 1912 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his method of hydrogenating organic compounds in the presence of metallic powder catalysts. He is also known for the Sabatier reaction where hydrogen reacts with carbon dioxide under high temperature and pressure to create methane and water using nickel as a catalyst. The Sabatier principle of catalysts states the interactions between catalyst and substrate should not be too strong or too weak.